Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam who passed away in 632, related:
“Gabriel came to me and said, ‘O Muhammad, live as you wish, for you shall eventually die. Love whom you desire, for you shall eventually depart. Do what you please, for you shall pay. Know that the night-prayer is the honor of a believer, and his pride is being independant on others.’” (Silsilah al-Saheehah)
If there is only one thing certain about life, it is that it ends. This truism instinctively raises a question which preoccupies most people at least once in their life: What lies beyond death?
At the physiological level, the journey that the deceased takes is plain for all to witness. If left alone to natural causes, the heart will stop beating, the lungs will stop breathing, and the body’s cells will be starved of blood and oxygen. The termination of blood flow to the outer extremities will soon turn them pale. With the oxygen cut off, cells will respire anaerobically for a time, producing the lactic acid which causes rigor mortis – the stiffening of the corpse’s muscles. Then, as the cells begin to decompose, the stiffness wanes, the tongue protrudes, the temperature drops, the skin discolors, the flesh rots, and the parasites have their feast - until all that is left is dried-out tooth and bone.
As for the journey of the soul after death, then this is not something that can be witnessed, nor can it be gauged through scientific enquiry. Even in a living body, the conscious, or soul, of a person cannot be subjected to empirical experimentation. It is simply beyond human control. In this regard, the concept of a Hereafter - a life beyond death, resurrection, and a Day of Reckoning; not to mention the existence of a Divine, Omnipotent Creator, His angels, destiny, and so on - comes under the subject of belief in the unseen. The only way in which man can come to know anything of the unseen world is through divine revelation.
“And with God are the keys of the unseen, none knows them but He. And He knows whatever there is in (or on) the earth and in the sea; not a leaf falls, but He knows it. There is not a grain in the darkness of the earth, nor anything fresh or dry, but is written in a Clear Record.” (Quran 6:59)
While what has come down to us of the Torah, the Psalms, the Gospel - the scriptures revealed to early prophets - all speak of a Hereafter, it is only through God’s Final Revelation to humanity, the Holy Quran, as revealed to His Final Prophet, Muhammad, that we learn most about the afterlife. And as the Quran is, and will forever remain, preserved and uncorrupted by human hands, the insight it gives us into the world of the unseen is, for the believer, as factual, real and true as anything that can be learnt through any scientific endeavor (and with a zero margin of error!).
“…We have neglected nothing in the Book; then unto their Lord they shall all be gathered.” (Quran 6:38)
Coupled with the question of what happens after we die, is the question: Why are we here? For if there is indeed no greater purpose to life (that is, greater than simply living life itself), the question of what happens after death becomes academic, if not pointless. It is only if one first accepts that our intelligent design, our creation, necessitates an intelligence and designer behind it, a Creator who will judge us for what we do, that life on earth carries any significant meaning.
“Then did you think that We created you in vain and that to Us you would not be returned? Therefore exalted be God, the Sovereign, the Truth; no deity is there save Him, Lord of the Supreme Throne.” (Quran 23:115-116)
If aught else, a discerning person would be forced to conclude that life on earth is full of injustice, cruelty and oppression; that the law of the jungle, survival of the fittest, is what is paramount; that if one cannot find happiness in this life, whether due to an absence of material comforts, physical love, or other joyous experiences, then life is simply not worth living. In fact, it is precisely because a person despairs of this worldly life while having little, no, or imperfect faith in an afterlife, that they may commit suicide. After all, what else do the unhappy, unloved and unwanted; the dejected, (desperately) depressed and despairing have to lose?!
“And who despairs of the Mercy of his Lord except those who are astray?” (Quran 15:56)
So can we accept that our death is limited to mere physiological termination, or that life is merely a product of blind, selfish evolution? Surely, there is more to death, and so to life, than this.
 Formal prayers (salat) prayed voluntarily at night after the last (isha) and before the first (fajr) of the five daily prayers. The best time to pray them is in the final third of the night.
 Although a heart can be kept artificially beating, and blood artificially pumping, if the brain is dead, so too is the being as a whole.
 According to a United Nations report marking ‘World Suicide Prevention Day’, “More people kill themselves each year than die from wars and murders combined ... Some 20 million to 60 million try to kill themselves each year, but only about a million of them succeed.”
The Believer in the Grave
The Journey after Death A Grave World
We will now take a brief look at the journey of the soul after death. This is truly an amazing story, all the more so because it is true and one which we all must take. The sheer depth of knowledge we have concerning this journey, its precision and detail, is a manifest sign that Muhammad was truly God’s Last Messenger to humanity. The revelation he received and then communicated to us from His Lord is as unambiguous in its description of the afterlife as it comprehensive. Our glimpse into this knowledge will begin with a brief exploration of the journey of the believing soul from the moment of death to its final resting place in Paradise.
When a believer is about to depart this world, angels with white faces come down from the heavens and say:
“O peaceful soul, come out to forgiveness from God and His pleasure.” (Hakim and others)
The believer will look forward to meeting his Creator, as the Prophet, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, explained:
“…when the time of the death of a believer approaches, he receives the good news of God’s pleasure with him and His blessings upon him, and so at that time nothing is dearer to him than what lies ahead of him. He therefore loves meeting God, and God loves meeting him.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
The soul peacefully passes out of the body like a drop of water which emerges from a water-skin, and the angels take hold of it:
The angels gently extract it, saying:
“…Do not fear and do not grieve, but receive good tidings of the Paradise which you were promised. We were your allies in this worldly life and [are so] in the Hereafter, and you will have therein whatever your souls desire, and you will have therein whatever you request [or wish], as a hospitality from the Forgiving and Merciful.” (Quran 41:30-32)
Once extracted from the body, the angels wrap the soul in a shroud smelling of musk and ascend up to the heavens. As the Gates of Heaven open for the soul, the angels greet it:
“A good soul has come from the earth, may God bless you and the body you used to dwell in.”
…introducing it with the best names it was called with in this life. God commands his “book” to be recorded, and the soul is returned back to earth.
The soul then remains in a place of limbo in its grave, called the Barzakh, awaiting the Day of Judgment. Two fearsome, dread-inspiring angels called Munkar and Nakeer visit the soul to ask it about its religion, God, and prophet. The believing soul sits upright in its grave as God grants it the strength to answer the angels with full faith and certainty.
Munkar and Nakeer: “What is your religion?”
Believing soul: “Islam.”
Munkar and Nakeer: “Who is your Lord?”
Believing soul: “Allah.”
Munkar and Nakeer: “Who is your Prophet?” (or “What do you say about this man?”)
Believing soul: “Muhammad.”
Munkar and Nakeer: “How did you come to know these things?”
Believing soul: “I read the Book of Allah (i.e. the Quran) and I believed.”
Then, when the soul passes the test, a voice from the heavens will call out:
“My slave has spoken the truth, supply him with furnishings from Paradise, clothe him from Paradise, and open a gate for him to Paradise.”
The believer’s grave is made roomy and spacious and filled with light. He is shown what would have been his abode in Hell - had he been a wicked sinner - before a portal is opened for him every morning and evening showing him his actual home in Paradise. Excited and full of joyful anticipation, the believer will keep asking: ‘When will the Hour (of Resurrection) come?! When will the Hour come?!’ until he is told to calm down.
 Musnah Ahmad
“That Day, a man shall flee from his brother; from his mother and his father; from his wife and his children. For on that Day, every man will have enough to make him indifferent to others.” (Quran 80:34-37)
The Hour of Resurrection will be a terrifying, overwhelming event. Yet, despite its trauma, the believer will be ecstatic, just as Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, related from his Lord:
God says, “By My Glory and Majesty, I will not give My slave two securities and two terrors. If he feels secure from Me in the world, I will instill fear in him on the Day when I gather My slaves together; and if he fears Me in the world, I will make him feel safe on the Day when I gather My slaves together.”
“Unquestionably, for the allies of God there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve: those who believed and used to fear God (in this life); for them are good tidings in the worldly life and in the Hereafter. No change is there in the words of God. Indeed in that is the great success.” (Quran 10:62-64)
When all humans ever created are gathered to stand naked and uncircumcised on a great plain under the ferocious scorching heat of the Sun, an elite group of pious men and women will be shaded under the Throne of God. The Prophet Muhammad foretold just who these fortunate souls will be, on that Day when no other shade will avail:
· a just ruler who did not abuse his power, but established divinely revealed justice among people
· a young man who grew up worshipping his Lord and controlled his desires in order to remain chaste
· those who hearts were attached to the Mosques, longing to return every time they left them
· those who loved one another for God’s sake
· those who were tempted by seductively beautiful women, but their fear of God stopped them from sinning
· the one who spent in charity sincerely for God’s sake, keeping their charity secret
· the one who wept out of God’s fear in solitude
Specific acts of worship will also keep people safe on that day, namely:
· efforts in this world to relieve the woes of the distressed, to help the needy, and to overlook the mistakes of others will relieve people’s own distress on Judgment Day
· leniency shown to the indebted
· the just who are fair to their families and matters entrusted to them
· controlling anger
· whoever calls to prayer
· growing old while in a state of Islam
· performing ritual ablution (wudu’) regularly and properly
· those who fight alongside Jesus son of Mary against the Anti-Christ and his army
God will bring the believer close to Him, shelter him, cover him, and ask him about his sins. After acknowledging his sins he will believe he is doomed, but God will say:
“I concealed it for you in the world, and I forgive it for you this Day.”
He will be rebuked for his shortcomings, but will then be handed his record of good deeds in his right hand.
“Then as for he who is given his record in his right hand, he will be judged with an easy account and return to his people in happiness.” (Quran 84:7-8)
Happy to look at his record, he will announce his joy:
“So as for he who is given his record in his right hand, he will say, ‘Here, read my record! Indeed, I was certain that I would be meeting my account.’ So he will be in a pleasant life – in an elevated Garden, its [fruit] to be picked hanging near. [He will be told], ‘Eat and drink in satisfaction for what you put forth in the days past.’” (Quran 69:19-24)
The record of good deeds will then be weighed, literally, to determine whether it outweighs the person’s record of bad deeds, and so that reward or punishment be meted out accordingly.
“And We place the scales of justice for the Day of Resurrection, so no soul will be treated unjustly at all. And if there is [any deed even] the weight of a mustard seed, We will bring it forth. And sufficient are We to take account.” (Quran 21:47)
“So whoever worked even an atom’s weight of good will see (the good fruits of his labor).” (Quran 99:7)
“The heaviest thing that will be placed in a person’s Balance on the Day of Resurrection [after the testimony of Faith] is good manners, and God hates the obscene, immoral person.” (Al-Tirmidhi)
The believers will quench their thirst from a special reservoir dedicated to the Prophet Muhammad. Whoever drinks from it shall never experience thirst again. Its beauty, immenseness, and sweet, fine taste have been described in detail by the Prophet.
The believers in Islam – both the sinful amongst them and the pious – as well as the hypocrites will be left in the great plain after the unbelievers are driven to Hell. A long bridge traversing the Hellfire and engulfed in darkness will separate them from Paradise. The faithful will take strength and comfort in their swift crossing over the roaring fires of Hell and in the ‘light’ that God will place in front of them, guiding them to their eternal home:
“On the Day you see the believing men and believing women, their light proceeding before them and on their right, [it will be said], ‘Your good tidings today are of gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein you will abide eternally.’ Indeed in that is the great success.” (Quran 57:12)
Finally, after crossing the bridge, the faithful will be purified before they are entered into Paradise. All scores between believers will be settled so that no one man nurses a grudge against another.
 In the sense that he does not fear God’s punishment and thus commits sins.
 Silsila Al-Saheehah.
 Saheeh Al-Bukhari.
 Saheeh Al-Bukhari.
 Saheeh Muslim.
 Saheeh Muslim.
 Jami al-Sagheer.
 Saheeh Al-Bukhari.
 Ibn Majah.
 Saheeh Al-Bukhari. A sign that they are from the inhabitants of Paradise, as opposed to those who will be given their record of deeds in their left hands or behind their backs.
 Saheeh Muslim.
 Saheeh Al-Bukhari
The Believer and Paradise
The Journey after Death Paradise
The believers will be ushered on towards the grand eight gates of Paradise. There, they will receive a joyous angelic reception and be congratulated on account of their safe arrival and salvation from Hell.
“But those who feared their Lord will be driven to Paradise in groups until, when they reach it while its gates have been opened and its keepers say, ‘Peace be upon you; you have become pure; so enter it to abide eternally therein.” (Quran 39:73)
(It will be said to the pious): “O (you) the one in (complete) rest and satisfaction! Come back to your Lord, Well-pleased and well-pleasing unto Him! Enter you then among My honored slaves. Enter you My Paradise!” (Quran 89:27-30)
The best of the Muslims will enter Paradise first. The most righteous of them will ascend to the highest levels.
“But whoever comes to God as a believer (in His Oneness, etc.) and has done righteous good deeds; for such are the high ranks (in the Hereafter).” (Quran 20:75)
“And the foremost (in faith) will be foremost (in the Hereafter); those are the ones brought near to God in the Gardens of Pleasure; they will enter in one rank with bright faces.” (Quran 56:10-2)
The Quranic description of Paradise gives us a vision of just what a fantastic place it is. An eternal home that will fulfill all our wholesome desires, seduce all our senses, grant us everything we could possibly want and much more besides. God describes His Paradise as having earth made of is fine musk powder, soil of saffron, bricks of gold and silver, and pebbles of pearls and rubies. Beneath the gardens of Paradise are flowing rivers of sparkling water, sweet milk, clear honey, and non-intoxicating wine. The tents on their banks are domes of hollow pearls. The whole space is filled with sparkling light, sweet-smelling plants and fragrances that can be savored from afar. There are lofty palaces, huge mansions, grapevines, date palms, pomegranate trees, lotus and acacia trees whose trunks of made of gold. Ripe, abundant fruit of all kinds: berries, citrus, drupes, grapes, melons, pomes; all kinds of fruit, tropical and exotic; anything the faithful could possibly desire!
“…And therein is whatever each soul desires and delights the eyes...” (Quran 43:71)
Each believer will have a most beautiful, pious and pure spouse, wearing exquisite clothing; And there will be so much more in a new world of eternal, radiant joy.
“And no soul knows what has been hidden for them of comfort for eyes [i.e. satisfaction] as reward for what they used to do.” (Quran 32:17)
As well as physical delights, Paradise will also give its residents a state of emotional and psychological bliss, as the Prophet said:
“Whoever enters Paradise is blessed with a life of joy; he will never feel miserable, his clothes will never wear out, and his youth shall never fade away. The people will hear a divine call: ‘I grant you that you will be healthy and never fall sick, you will live and never die, you will be young and never age, you will be joyful and never feel miserable.’” (Saheeh Muslim)
Ultimately, the thing that will most delight the eyes will be the Countenance of God Himself. For the true believer, to see this blessed vision of God is to have won the ultimate prize.
“[Some] faces, that Day, will be radiant, looking at their Lord.” (Quran 75:22-23)
This is the Paradise, the eternal home and final destination of the righteous believer. May God, Most High, make us worthy of it.
 Sahih al-Jami.
 Saheeh Muslim
 Saheeh Al-Bukhari
 Sahih al-Jami
 Quran 56:27-32
 Sahih al-Jami
As death approaches the wicked disbeliever, he is made to feel something of the heat of the Hellfire. This taste of what is to come causes him to plead for a second chance on earth to do the good he knew he should have done. Alas! His pleading will be in vain.
“Until, when death comes to one of them, he says: ‘O my Lord. Send me back to life (on earth) in order that I may do good deeds in the things that I neglected.’ By no means! It is only an utterance that he says. And before them is a barrier (preventing them from returning: the life of the grave) until the Day (of Resurrection) they are ressurected.” (Quran 23:99-100)
Divine wrath and punishment is conveyed to the wicked soul by hideously ugly, dark angels who sit far away from it:
“Receive glad tidings of boiling water, wound discharge, and multiple, similar torments.” (Ibn Majah, Ibn Katheer)
The disbelieving soul will not look forward to meeting its Lord God, as the Prophet explained:
“When the time of the death of a disbeliever approaches, he receives the evil news of God’s torment and His Requital, whereupon nothing is more hateful to him than what is before him. Therefore, he hates the meeting with God, and God too, hates the meeting with him.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
The Prophet also said:
“Whoever loves to meet God, God loves to meet him, and whoever hates to meet God, God hates to meet him.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
The Angel of Death sits at the head of the disbeliever in his grave and says: “Wicked soul, come out to the displeasure of Allah” as he snatches the soul out of the body.
“And if you could but see when the wrongdoers are in the overwhelming pangs of death while the angels extend their hands, saying, ‘Save yourselves! Today you will be awarded the punishment of extreme humiliation for what you used to say against God other than the truth, and that you were, toward His verses, being arrogant.” (Quran 6:93)
“And if you could not see when the angels take the souls of those who disbelieved… striking their faces and their backs and saying, ‘Taste the punishment of the Blazing Fire.’” (Quran 8:50)
The evil soul leaves the body with great difficulty, drawn out by the angels as a thronged skewer is dragged through wet wool. The Angel of Death then seizes the soul and puts it in a sack woven from hair which gives off a putrid stench, as foul and offensive as the most foul-smelling rotting corpse found on earth. The angels then take the soul up past another company of angels who inquire: “Who is this wicked soul?” to which they reply: “So and so, the son of so and so?” - using the very worst of names that he was ever called during his time on earth. Then, when he is brought to the lowest heaven, a request is made that its gate be opened for him, but the request is denied. Whilst the Prophet was describing these events, when he reached this point, he recited:
“The gates of heaven will not be opened for them and they will not enter paradise until a camel can pass through the eye of a needle.” (Quran 7:40)
God will say: “Record his book in Sijjeen in the lowest earth.”
…and his soul is cast down. At this juncture, the Prophet, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, recited:
“He who assigns partners to Allah is as if he had fallen down from heaven and been snatched up by the birds, or made to fall by the wind in a place far distant.” (Quran 22:31)
The wicked soul is then restored to its body and the two fearsome, dread-inspiring angels, Munkar and Nakeer, come to it for its interrogation. After making him sit up, they ask:
Munkar and Nakeer: “Who is your Lord?”
Disbelieving soul: “Alas, alas, I do not know.”
Munkar and Nakeer: “What is your religion?”
Disbelieving soul: “Alas, alas, I do not know.”
Munkar and Nakeer: “What do you say about this man (Muhammad) sent to you?”
Disbelieving soul: “Alas, alas I do not know.”
Having failed his test, the disbeliever’s head will be struck with an iron hammer with a force so violent that it would crumble a mountain. The cry will be heard from heaven: “He has lied, so spread out carpets of Hell for him, and open for him a portal into Hell.” The floor of his grave is thus set alight with some of Hell’s fierce fire, and his grave is made narrow and constricted to the extent that his ribs become intertwined as his body is crushed. Then, an incredibly ugly being, wearing ugly garments and giving off a foul and offensive odor comes to the disbelieving soul and says: “Be grieved with what displeases you, for this is your day which you have been promised.” The disbeliever will ask: “Who are you, with your face so ugly and bringing evil?” The ugly one will reply: “l am your wicked deeds!” The disbeliever is then made to taste bitter remorse as he is shown what would have been his abode in Paradise - had he lived a righteous life - before a portal is opened for him every morning and evening showing him his actual home in Hell. Allah mentions in His Book how the wicked people of Pharaoh are, at this very moment, suffering from such an exposure to Hell from within their graves:
“The Fire: they are exposed to it, morning and afternoon, and on the Day when the Hour will be established (it will be said to the angels): ‘(Now) cause Pharaoh’s people to enter the severest torment!’” (Quran 40:46)
Overcome with fear and loathing, anxiety and despair, the disbeliever in his grave will keep asking: “My Lord, do not bring the last hour. Do not bring the last hour.”
The Companion, Zaid b. Thabit, narrated how, when the Prophet Muhammad and his Companions were once passing some graves of polytheists, the Prophet’s horse bolted and almost unseated him. The Prophet, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, then said:
“These people are being tortured in their graves, and were it not that you would stop burying your dead, I would ask God to let you hear the punishment in the grave which I (and this horse) can hear.” (Saheeh Muslim)
 Al-Hakim, Abu Dawood, and others.
 Musnad Ahmad.
 Musnad Ahmad.
 Ibn Hibban.
The Unbeliever on Judgment Day
A great terror will befall the resurrected on the mighty Day of Resurrection:
“…He only delays them until a Day when eyes will stare (in horror).” (Quran 14:42)
The unbeliever is resurrected from his ‘grave’ as described by God:
“The Day they will emerge from the graves rapidly as if they were, toward an erected idol, hastening. Their eyes humbled, humiliation will cover them. That is the Day which they had been promised.” (Quran 70:43)
The heart will be trembling, confused about what evil retribution lies in store for it:
“And (other) faces, that Day, will have upon them dust. Blackness will cover them. Those are the unbelievers, the wicked ones.” (Quran 80:40-42)
“And never think that God is unaware of what the wrongdoers do. He only delays them (i.e., their account) until a Day when eyes will stare (in horror). Racing ahead, their heads raised up, their glance does not come back to them, and their hearts are void.” (Quran 14:42)
The disbelievers will be gathered as they were born - naked and uncircumcised – upon a great plain, driven on his faces, blind, deaf, and mute:
“We will gather them on the Day of Resurrection (fallen) on their faces – blind, dumb, and deaf. Their refuge is Hell; every time it subsides We increase them in blazing fire.” (Quran 17:97)
“And whoever turns away from My remembrance – indeed, he will have a depressing life, and We will gather him on the Day of Resurrection blind.” (Quran 20:124)
Three times they will “meet” God. The first time they will attempt to defend themselves in futile argument against God Almighty, saying things such as: “The prophets did not come to us!” Even though Allah revealed in His Book:
“…And never would We punish until We sent a messenger.” (Quran 17:15)
“…Lest you say: ‘There came unto us no bringer of glad tidings and no warner….’” (Quran 5:19)
The second time, they will present their excuses while acknowledging their guilt. Even the devils will try to excuse themselves from their crimes of leading men astray:
“His (man’s) personal demon will say: ‘Our Lord! I did not push him to transgress. Rather, he was himself in error, far astray.’” (Quran 50:27)
But God, Most High and Just, will not be fooled. He will say:
“Dispute not in front of me. I have already advanced before you the threat. The sentence that comes from Me cannot be changed. And I am not unjust (in the least) to the slaves.” (Quran 50:28-29)
The third time the wicked soul will meet its Maker to receive its Book of Deeds, a record omitting nothing.
“And the record [of deeds] will be placed [open], and you will see the criminals fearful of that within it, and they will say: ‘Oh, woe to us! What is this book that leaves nothing small or great except that it has enumerated it?’ And they will find what they did present [before them]. And your Lord does not do injustice to anyone.” (Quran 18:49)
Upon receiving their records, the wicked ones will be rebuked in front of the whole of mankind.
“And they will be presented before your Lord in rows, (and He will say), ‘You have certainly come to Us, just as We created you the first time.’ But you claimed that We would never have an appointment!” (Quran 18:48)
The Prophet Muhammad said: “These are the ones who did not believe in God!” And it is these whom God will question regarding the blessings they took for granted. Each one will be asked: ‘Did you think We would meet?’ And as each one will answer: ‘No!’ God will tell him: ‘I will forget about you as you forgot Me!’ Then, as the disbeliever will attempt to lie his way out, God will seal his mouth, and his body parts instead will testify against him.
“That Day, We will seal over their mouths, and their hands will speak to Us, and their feet will testify about what they used to earn.” (Quran 36:65)
Besides his own sins, the disbeliever will also bear the sins of those he misled.
“And when it is said to them: ‘What has your Lord sent down?’ They say: ‘Legends of the former peoples,’ that they may bear their own burdens (i.e., sins) in full on the Day of Resurrection and some of the burdens of those whom they misguide without knowledge. Unquestionably, evil is that which they bear.” (Quran 16:24-25)
The psychological pain of deprivation, loneliness and abandonment will all to the physical torture.
“…and God will not speak to them or look at them on the Day of Resurrection, nor will He purify them; and they will have a painful punishment.” (Quran 3:77)
While the Prophet Muhammad will intercede on behalf of all believers, no intercessor will the disbeliever find; he who worshipped false deities besides the One, True God.
“…And the wrongdoers will not have any protector or helper.” (Quran 42:8)
Their saints and spiritual advisors will dissociate themselves, and the disbeliever would wish he could come back to this life and do the same to those who now disown them:
“(And they should consider that) when those who have been followed disassociate themselves from those who followed (them), and they [all] see the punishment, and cut off from them are the ties [of relationship]. Those who followed will say, ‘If only we had another turn [at worldly life] so we could disassociate ourselves from them as they have disassociated themselves from us.’ Thus will God show them their deeds as regrets upon them. And they are never to emerge from the Fire.” (Quran 2:167)
The sorrow of the sin-ridden soul will be so intense that he will actually pray: ‘O God, have mercy on me and put me in the Fire.’ He will be asked: ‘Do you wish you had a whole earth-full of gold so you could pay it to set yourself free?’ To which he will answer: ‘Yes.’ Whereupon he will be told: ‘You were asked for something much easier than that - worship God alone.’
“And they were not commanded except that they should worship Allah (alone), being sincere to the upright religion (of Islam)….” (Quran 98:5)
“But the disbelievers – their deeds are like a mirage in a lowland which a thirsty one thinks is water until, when he comes to it, he finds it is nothing, but he finds God before Him, Who will pay him in full his due; and God is swift in account.” (Quran 24:39)
“And We shall turn to what deeds they have done, and We shall make them as dust dispersed.” (Quran 25:23)
The disbelieving soul will then be handed in his left hand and from behind his back, his written record which was kept by angels who noted his every deed in his earthly life.
“But as for he who is given his record in his left hand, he will say: ‘Oh, I wish I had not been given my record, and had not known what is my account.’” (Quran 69:25-26)
“But as for he who is given his record behind his back, he will cry out for his destruction.” (Quran 84:10-11)
Finally, he will be made to enter Hell:
“And those who disbelieved will be driven to Hell in groups until, when they reach it, its gates are opened and its keepers will say: ‘Did there not come to you messengers from yourselves, reciting to you the verses of your Lord and warning you of the meeting of this Day of yours?’ They will say: ‘Yes, but the word (i.e., decree) of punishment has come into effect upon the disbelievers.’” (Quran 39:71)
The first to enter Hell will be the pagans, followed by those Jews and Christians who corrupted the true religion of their prophets. Some will be driven to Hell, others will fall in it, snatched by hooks. At that point, the disbeliever will wish that he had could have been turned into dust, rather than reap the bitter fruits of his evil works.
“Indeed, We have warned you of a near punishment on the Day when a man will observe what his hands have put forth and the disbeliever will say: ‘Oh, I wish that I were dust!’” (Quran 78:40)
 Ibn Majah, Musnad, and Al-Tirmidhi.
 Saheeh Muslim.
 Saheeh Muslim.
 Saheeh Al-Bukhari.
 Saheeh Al-Bukhari.
 Saheeh Al-Bukhari.
The Unbeliever and Hell
Hell will receive the faithless with its fury and roar:
“…and We have prepared for those who deny the Hour, a Blaze. When it [Hellfire] sees them from a distant place, they will hear its fury and roaring.” (Quran 25:11-12)
When they near it, they will anticipate their shackles and their destiny as fuel:
“Indeed, We have prepared for the disbelievers chains and shackles and a blaze.” (Quran 76:4)
“Indeed, with Us are shackles and burning fire.” (Quran 73:12)
Angels will rush at God’s command to seize and shackle him:
“Seize him and shackle him.” (Quran 69:30)
“…and We will put shackles on the necks of those who disbelieved.” (Quran 34:33)
Bound in chains…
“…a chain whereof the length is seventy cubits.” (Quran 69:32)
…he will be dragged along:
“When iron collars will be rounded over their necks, and the chains, they shall be dragged along.” (Quran 40:71)
While they are being tied down, chained, and dragged to be thrown into Hell, they will hear its rage:
“And for those who disbelieved in their Lord is the punishment of Hell, and wretched is the destination. When they are thrown into it, they hear from it a [dreadful] inhaling while it boils up. It almost bursts with rage....” (Quran 67:6-8)
Since they will be driven from the great plain of gathering, naked and hungry, they will beg the inhabitants of Paradise for water:
“And the companions of the Fire will call to the companions of Paradise: ‘Pour upon us some water, or from whatever God has provided you.’ They will say: ‘Indeed God has forbidden them both to the disbelievers.’” (Quran 7:50)
At the same time the faithful in Paradise will be received with honor, made comfortable, and served with delicious banquets, the disbeliever will dine in Hell:
“Then indeed, you, the stray, the deniers, will be eating from trees of zaqqoom and filling your bellies with it.” (Quran 56:51-53)
Zaqqoom: a tree whose roots are in the bottom of Hell and which branches into its other levels; its fruit resembles the heads of the devils:
“Is that (Paradise) better as hospitality or the tree of zaqqoom? Indeed, We have made it a torment for the wrongdoers. Indeed, it is a tree issuing from the bottom of the Hellfire, its emerging fruits as if it was heads of the devils. And indeed, they will eat from it and fill with it their bellies.” (Quran 37:62-66)
The wicked will have other food to eat as well, some that chokes, and some like dry, thorny bushes.
“Nor any food except from the (foul) discharge of wounds; none will eat it except the sinners.” (Quran 69:36-37)
And to wash down their melancholy meals, an extremely cold mix of their own pus, blood, sweat and wound discharge as well as boiling, scolding water which dissolves their intestines:
“…and are given to drink scalding water that will sever their intestines.” (Quran 47:15)
The clothing of the denizens of Hell will be made of fire and pitch:
“...but those who disbelieved will have cut out for them garments of fire.” (Quran 22:19)
“Their garments of liquid pitch and their faces covered by the Fire.” (Quran 14:50)
Their sandals, bed, and canopies will likewise be made of fire; a punishment encapsulating the entire body, from heedless head to transgressing toe:
“Then pour over his head from the torment of scalding water.” (Quran 44:48)
“On the Day the punishment will cover them from above them and from below their feet and it is said: ‘Taste what you used to do.’” (Quran 29:55)
Their punishment in Hell will vary according to their disbelief and other sins.
“By no means! He will surely be thrown into the Crusher. And what can make you know what is the Crusher? It is the fire of God, [eternally] fueled, which mounts directed at the hearts. Indeed, it [Hellfire] will be closed down upon them. In extended columns.” (Quran 104:5-9)
Every time the skin will burn through, it will be replenished with new skin:
“Indeed, those who disbelieve in Our verses – We will drive them into a Fire. Every time their skins are roasted through, We will replace them with other skins so they may taste the punishment. Indeed, God is ever Exalted in Might and Wise.” (Quran 4:56)
Worst of all, the punishment will keep increasing:
“So taste [the penalty], and never will We increase you except in torment.” (Quran 78:30)
The psychological effect of this punishing chastisement will be tremendous. A chastisement so severe that its sufferers will cry out for it to be multiplied on those who led them astray:
“They will say: ‘Our Lord, whoever brought this upon us – increase for him double punishment in the Fire.’” (Quran 38:61)
The daring will make their first attempt to break out, but:
“And for them are maces of iron. Every time they want to get out of it from anguish, they will be returned to it, and [it will be said]: ‘Taste the punishment of the Burning Fire!’” (Quran 22:21-22)
After failing several times, they will seek assistance from Iblees, the Great Satan himself.
“And Satan will say when the matter has been concluded: ‘Indeed, God had promised you the promise of truth. And I promised you, but I betrayed you. But I had no authority over you except that I invited you, and you responded to me. So do not blame me; but blame yourselves. I cannot be called to your aid, nor can you be called to my aid. Indeed, I deny your association of me [with God] before. Indeed, for the wrongdoers is a painful punishment.’” (Quran 14:22)
Giving up on Satan, they will turn to the angels guarding Hell to get their torment reduced, even if just for a day:
“And those in the Fire will say to the keepers of Hell: ‘Supplicate your Lord to lighten for us [even] one day from the punishment.’” (Quran 40:49)
Awaiting the response for as long as God wills, the guards will come back and ask:
“‘Did there not come to you your messengers with clear proofs?’ They will say, ‘Yes.’ They (Hell’s keepers) will reply: ‘Then supplicate yourselves, but the supplication of the disbelievers is nothing but (an exercise in) futility.’” (Quran 40:50)
Losing hope in the reduction of punishment, they will seek death. This time they will turn to the Hell’s Chief Keeper, the angel, Malik, pleading to him for forty years:
“And they will call: ‘O Malik, let your Lord put an end to us!...’” (Quran 43:77)
His curt rebuttal after a thousand years will be:
“…Indeed, you will remain.” (Quran 43:77)
Eventually, they will return to He Whom they refused to turn to in this world, asking for one last chance:
“They will say, ‘Our Lord, our wretchedness overcame us, and we were a people astray. Our Lord, remove us from it, and if we were to return [to evil], we would indeed be wrongdoers.’” (Quran 23:106-107)
God’s respond will be thus:
“Remain despised therein and do not speak to Me.” (Quran 23:108)
The pain from this response will be worse than their fiery torment. For the disbeliever will know his stay in Hell will be for an eternity, his omission from Paradise absolute and final:
“Indeed, those who disbelieve and commit wrong – never will God forgive them, nor will He guide them to a path except the path of Hell; they will abide therein forever. And that, for God, is easy.” (Quran 4:168-169)
The greatest deprivation and sorrow for an unbeliever will be spiritual: he will be veiled from God and will be deprived of seeing Him:
“No! Indeed, from their Lord, that Day, they will be partitioned.” (Quran 83:15)
Just like they refused to “see” Him in this life, they will be separated from God in the next life. The faithful will jeer at them.
“So Today, those who believed are laughing at the disbelievers, on adorned couches, observing. Have the disbelievers [not] been rewarded [this Day] for what they used to do?” (Quran 83:34-36)
Their total despair and grief will culminate when death is brought in the form of a ram and slaughtered in front of them, so they know no refuge will ever be found in a final dissolution.
“And warn them, (O Muhammad), of the Day of Regret, when the matter will be concluded; and yet they are heedless, and they do not believe!” (Quran 19:39)
 Quran 72:13.
 Quran 88:6-7.
 Quran 78:24-25.
 Saheeh Muslim.
 Quran 7:41.
Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, who passed away in 632, related:
“This world is a prison for the believer, but for the disbeliever it is a Paradise. While for the disbeliever, the Hereafter will be a prison, but for the believer, it will be his Paradise.”
Once, in the early period of Islam, a poor Christian happened upon one of the great scholars of Islam, who was at the time mounted upon a fine horse and clad in fine garments. The Christian recited to the well-to-do Muslim the hadeeth quoted above, before remarking: “Yet I stand before you a non-Muslim, poor and destitute in this world, while you are a Muslim, rich and prosperous.” The scholar of Islam replied: “Indeed so. But if you knew the reality of what might await you (of eternal punishment) in the Hereafter, you would consider yourself now to be in Paradise by comparison. And if you knew the reality of what might await me (of eternal bliss) in the Hereafter, you would consider me now to be in prison by comparison.”
Thus, it is from the great mercy and justice of God that he created Heaven and Hell. Knowledge of the Hellfire serves to dissuade man from wrong-doing while a glimpse into the treasures of Paradise incites him towards good deeds and righteousness. Those who deny their Lord, work evil and are unrepentant will enter Hell: a place of real pain and suffering. While the reward for righteousness is the place of unimaginable physical beauty and perfection that is His Paradise.
Often, people testify to the goodness of their own souls by claiming that any good they do is purely and solely out of a genuine love of God or to live by a universal moral and virtuous code, and for that, they do not need any sticks or carrots. But when God speaks to man in the Quran, He does so knowing the fickleness of his soul. The delights of Paradise are real, physical, tangible delights. Man can begin to appreciate just how desirable the perfect, abundant and unending food, clothing and homes of Paradise can be precisely because he is aware of how satisfying and sweet those things can be in this present reality.
“Beautified for men is the love of things they covet: women, children, hoards of gold and silver, branded beautiful horses, cattle and well-tilled land. Such is the pleasure of the present life; but with Allah is the excellent return (to Paradise).” (Quran 3:14)
Likewise, man can begin to appreciate just how tortuous and terrifying Hellfire and its furnishings could be precisely because he is aware of how awful a burning by fire can be in this world. So, the journey of the soul after death, as described to us in vivid detail by God and His Prophet, Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, should and must serve as nothing but an incentive to what all of humanity surely and truly recognizes as its noble purpose: the worship and service of its Creator in selfless love, awe and gratitude. After all,
“…they were not commanded except that they should worship Allah (alone), being sincere to the upright religion (of Islam).” (Quran 98:5)
But, as for those many multitudes amongst mankind who, throughout the ages, neglect their moral duty to their Lord God and their fellow man, let then not forget that:
“Every soul will taste death, and you will only be given your [full] compensation on the Day of Resurrection. So whoever is drawn away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise, it is indeed he who has succeeded. And what is the life of this world except the enjoyment of delusion.” (Quran 3:185)
Sabtu, 31 Oktober 2009
All practicing Muslims accept belief in the ‘Six Articles of Faith’ and are obliged to follow the ‘Five Pillars.’ They are:
1. Muslim profession of faith or shahada.
2. Ritual Prayer or salah.
3. Obligatory Charity or zakah.
4. Fasting or sawm.
5. Pilgrimage or hajj.
The First Pillar Muslim Profession of Faith
The Shahada is the Muslim profession of faith and the first of the ‘Five Pillars’ of Islam. The word shahada in Arabic means ‘testimony.’ The shahada is to testify to two things:
(a) Nothing deserves worship except God (Allah).
(b) Muhammad is the Messenger of God (Allah).
A Muslim is simply one who bears witness and testifies that “nothing deserves worship except God and Muhammad is the messenger of God.” One becomes a Muslim by making this simple declaration.
It must be recited by every Muslim at least once in a lifetime with a full understanding of its meaning and with an assent of the heart. Muslims say this when they wake up in the morning, and before they go to sleep at night. It is repeated five times in the call to prayer in every mosque. A person who utters the shahada as their last words in this life has been promised Paradise.
Many people ignorant of Islam have misconceived notions about the Allah, used by Muslims to denote God. Allah is the proper name for God in Arabic, just as "Elah", or often "Elohim", is the proper name for God in Aramaic mentioned in the Old Testament. Allah is also His personal name in Islam, as "YHWH" is His personal name in Judaism. However, rather than the specific Hebrew denotation of "YHWH" as "He Who Is", in Arabic Allah denotes the aspect of being “The One True Deity worthy of all worship”. Arabic speaking Jews and Christians also refer to the Supreme Being as Allah.
(a) Nothing deserves worship except God (Allah).
The first part of this testimony states that God has the exclusive right to be worshipped inwardly and outwardly, by one’s heart and limbs. In Islamic doctrine, not only can no one be worshipped apart from Him, absolutely no one else can be worshipped along with Him. He has no partners or associates in worship. Worship, in its comprehensive sense and all its aspects, is for Him alone. God’s right to be worshipped is the essential meaning of Islam’s testimony of faith: Lā ‘ilāha ‘illā llāh. A person becomes Muslim by testifying to the divine right to worship. It is the crux of Islamic belief in God, even all of Islam. It is considered the central message of all prophets and messengers sent by God - the message of Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Moses, the Hebrew prophets, Jesus, and Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon them. For instance, Moses declared:
“Hear, O Israel The Lord our God is one Lord.” (Deuteronomy 6:4)
Jesus repeated the same message 1500 years later when he said:
“The first of all the commandments is, “Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord.” (Mark 12:29)
…and reminded Satan:
“Away from me, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.” (Matthew 4:10)
Finally, the call of Muhammad, some 600 years after Jesus, reverberated across the hills of Mecca, ‘And your God is One God: there is no god but He.’ (Quran 2:163). They all declared clearly:
“Worship God! You have no other god but Him.” (Quran 7:59, 7:73; 11:50, 11:84; 23:32)
But by a mere verbal profession alone, one does not become a complete Muslim. To become a complete Muslim one has to fully carry out in practice the instruction given by Prophet Muhammad as ordained by God. This brings us to the second part of the testimony.
(b) Muhammad is the Messenger of God (Allah).
Muhammad was born in Mecca in Arabia in the year 570 CE. His ancestry goes back to Ishmael, a son of Prophet Abraham. The second part of the confession of faith asserts that he is not only a prophet but also a messenger of God, a higher role also played by Moses and Jesus before him. Like all prophets before him, he was a human being, but chosen by God to convey His message to all humanity rather than one tribe or nation from among the many that exist. For Muslims, Muhammad brought the last and final revelation. In accepting Muhammad as the “last of the prophets,” they believe that his prophecy confirms and completes all of the revealed messages, beginning with that of Adam. In addition, Muhammad serves as the preeminent role model through his life example. The believer’s effort to follow Muhammad’s example reflects the emphasis of Islam on practice and action.
The Second Pillar of Islam: The Prayer
Salah is the daily ritual prayer enjoined upon all Muslims as one of the five Pillars of Islam. It is performed five times a day by all Muslims. Salah is a precise worship, different from praying on the inspiration of the moment. Muslims pray or, perhaps more correctly, worship five times throughout the day:
· Between first light and sunrise.
· After the sun has passed the middle of the sky.
· Between mid-afternoon and sunset.
· Between sunset and the last light of the day.
· Between darkness and midnight.
Abdullahi Haji-Mohamed kneels during evening prayers while waiting for fares at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, May 4, 2005. (AP Photo/The Plain Dealer, Gus Chan)
Each prayer may take at least 5 minutes, but it may be lengthened as a person wishes. Muslims can pray in any clean environment, alone or together, in a mosque or at home, at work or on the road, indoors or out. Under special circumstances, such as illness, journey, or war, certain allowances in the prayers are given to make their offering easy.
Having specific times each day to be close to God helps Muslims remain aware of the importance of their faith, and the role it plays in every part of life. Muslims start their day by cleaning themselves and then standing before their Lord in prayer. The prayers consist of recitations from the Quran in Arabic and a sequence of movements: standing, bowing, prostrating, and sitting. All recitations and movements express submission, humility, and homage to God. The various postures Muslims assume during their prayers capture the spirit of submission; the words remind them of their commitments to God. The prayer also reminds one of belief in the Day of Judgment and of the fact that one has to appear before his or her Creator and give an account of their entire life. This is how a Muslim starts their day. In the course of the day, Muslims dissociate themselves form their worldly engagements for a few moments and stand before God. This brings to mind once again the real purpose of life.
These prayers serve as a constant reminder throughout the day to help keep believers mindful of God in the daily stress of work, family, and distractions of life. Prayer strengthens faith, dependence on God, and puts daily life within the perspective of life to come after death and the last judgment. As they prepare to pray, Muslims face Mecca, the holy city that houses the Kaaba (the ancient place of worship built by Abraham and his son Ishmael). At the end of the prayer, the shahada (testimony of faith) is recited, and the greeting of peace, “Peace be upon all of you and the mercy and blessings of God,” is repeated twice.
Though individual performance of salah is permissible, collective worship in the mosque has special merit and Muslims are encouraged to perform certain salah with others. With their faces turned in the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca, the worshipers align themselves in parallel rows behind the imam, or prayer leader, who directs them as they execute the physical postures coupled with Quran recitations. In many Muslim countries, the “call to prayer,” or ‘Adhan,’ echo out across the rooftops. Aided by a megaphone the muezzin calls out:
Allahu Akbar (God is the greatest),
Allahu Akbar (God is the greatest),
Allahu Akbar (God is the greatest),
Allahu Akbar (God is the greatest),
Ash-hadu an-laa ilaaha ill-Allah (I witness that none deserves worship except God).
Ash-hadu an-laa ilaaha ill-Allah (I witness that none deserves worship except God).
Ash-hadu anna Muhammad-ar-Rasool-ullah (I witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God).
Ash-hadu anna Muhammad-ar-Rasool-ullah (I witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God).
Hayya ‘alas-Salah (Come to prayer!)
Hayya ‘alas-Salah (Come to prayer!)
Hayya ‘alal-Falah (Come to prosperity!)
Hayya ‘alal-Falah (Come to prosperity!)
Allahu Akbar (God is the greatest),
Allahu Akbar (God is the greatest),
La ilaaha ill-Allah (None deserves worship except God).
Men are joined by some of the students from the Noor-ul-Iman School for afternoon prayer at the Islamic Society of New Jersey, a mosque in suburban South Brunswick, N.J., Tuesday, May 13, 2003. Many Muslims communities across the United States are spreading out from the cities to the suburbs. (AP Photo/Daniel Hulshizer)
Friday is the weekly day of communal worship in Islam. The weekly convened Friday Prayer is the most important service. The Friday Prayer is marked by the following features:
· It falls in the same time as the noon prayer which it replaces.
· It must be performed in a congregation led by a prayer leader, an ‘Imam.’
It can not be offered individually. Muslims in the West try to arrange their schedules to allow them time to attend the prayer.
· Rather than a day of rest like the Sabbath, Friday is a day of devotion and extra worship. A Muslim is allowed normal work on Friday as on any other day of the week. They may proceed with their usual activities, but they must break for the Friday prayer. After the worship is over, they can resume their mundane activities.
· Typically, the Friday Prayer is performed in a mosque, if available. Sometimes, due to unavailability of a mosque, it may be offered at a rented facility, park, etc.
· When the time for prayer comes, the Adhan is pronounced The Imam then stands facing the audience and delivers his sermon (known as khutba in Arabic), an essential part of the service of which its attendance is required. While the Imam is talking, everyone present listens to the sermon quietly till the end. Most Imams in the West will deliver the sermon in English, but some deliver it in Arabic. Those who deliver it in Arabic usually deliver a short speech in the local language before the service.
· There are two sermons delivered, one distinguished from the other by a brief sitting of the Imam. The sermon is commenced with words of praise of God and prayers of blessing for Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him.
· After the sermon, the prayer is offered under the leadership of the Imam who recites the Fatiha and the other Quranic passage in an audible voice. When this is done, the prayer is completed.
Special, large congregational prayers, which include a sermon, are also offered at late morning on the two days of festivity. One of them is immediately following the month of fasting, Ramadan, and the other after the pilgrimage, or hajj.
Although not religiously mandated, individual devotional prayers, especially during the night, are emphasized and are a common practice among pious Muslims.
The Third Pillar of Islam: Compulsory Charity
Third pillar of Islam, the compulsory charity or zakat, the spiritual dimensions of zakat and charity, and how Islam views money in general.
Charity is not just recommended by Islam, it is required of every financially stable Muslim. Giving charity to those who deserve it is part of Muslim character and one of the Five Pillars of Islamic practice. Zakat is viewed as “compulsory charity”; it is an obligation for those who have received their wealth from God to respond to those members of the community in need. Devoid of sentiments of universal love, some people know only to hoard wealth and to add to it by lending it out on interest. Islam’s teachings are the very antithesis of this attitude. Islam encourages the sharing of wealth with others and helps people to stand on their own and become productive members of the society.
In Arabic it is known as zakat which literally means “purification”, because zakat is considered to purify one’s heart of greed. Love of wealth is natural and it takes firm belief in God for a person to part with some of his wealth. Zakat must be paid on different categories of property — gold, silver, money; livestock; agricultural produce; and business commodities — and is payable each year after one year’s possession. It requires an annual contribution of 2.5 percent of an individual’s wealth and assets.
Like prayer, which is both an individual and communal responsibility, zakat expresses a Muslim’s worship of and thanksgiving to God by supporting those in need. In Islam, the true owner of things is not man, but God. Acquisition of wealth for its own sake, or so that it may increase a man’s worth, is condemned. Mere acquisition of wealth counts for nothing in the sight of God. It does not give man any merit in this life or in the hereafter. Islam teaches that people should acquire wealth with the intention of spending it on their own needs and the needs of others.
“‘Man’, said the Prophet, ‘says: My wealth! My wealth!’ Have you not any wealth except that which you give as alms and thus preserve, wear and tatter, eat and use up?”
The whole concept of wealth is considered in Islam as a gift from God. God, who provided it to the person, made a portion of it for the poor, so the poor have a right over one’s wealth. Zakat reminds Muslims that everything they have belongs to God. People are given their wealth as a trust from God, and zakat is intended to free Muslims from the love of money. The money paid in zakat is not something God needs or receives. He is above any type of dependency. God, in His boundless mercy, promises rewards for helping those in need with one basic condition that zakat be paid in the name of God; one should not expect or demand any worldly gains from the beneficiaries nor aim at making one’s names as a philanthropist. The feelings of a beneficiary should not be hurt by making him feel inferior or reminding him of the assistance.
Money given as zakat can only be used for certain specific things. Islamic Law stipulates that alms are to be used to support the poor and the needy, to free slaves and debtors, as specifically mentioned in the Quran (9:60). Zakat, which developed fourteen hundred years ago, functions as a form of social security in a Muslim society.
Neither Jewish nor Christian scriptures praise slave manumission by raising it to worship. Indeed, Islam is unique in world religions in requiring the faithful to financially help slaves win their freedom and has raised the manumission of a slave to an act of worship - if it is done to please God.
Under the caliphates, the collection and expenditure of zakat was a function of the state. In the contemporary Muslim world, it has been left up to the individual, except in some countries in which the state fulfills that role to some degree. Most Muslims in the West disperse zakat through Islamic charities, mosques, or directly giving to the poor. Money is not collected during religious services or via collection plates, but some mosques keep a drop box for those who wish it to distribute zakat on their behalf. Unlike the zakat, Giving other forms of charity in private, even in secret, is considered better, in order to keep one’s intention purely for the God.
Apart from zakat, the Quran and Hadeeth (sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him) also stress sadaqah, or voluntary almsgiving, which is intended for the needy. The Quran emphasizes feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, helping those who are in need, and the more one helps, the more God helps the person, and the more one gives, the more God gives the person. One feels he is taking care of others and God is taking care of him.
The Fourth Pillar of Islam: The Fast of Ramadan
Fasting is not unique to the Muslims. It has been practiced for centuries in connection with religious ceremonies by Christians, Jews, Confucianists, Hindus, Taoists, and Jains. God mentions this fact in the Quran:
“O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may develop God-consciousness.” (Quran 2:183)
Some Native American societies fasted to avert catastrophe or to serve as penance for sin. Native North Americans held tribal fasts to avert threatening disasters. The Native Americans of Mexico and the Incas of Peru observed penitential fasts to appease their gods. Past nations of the Old World, such as the Assyrians and the Babylonians, observed fasting as a form of penance. Jews observe fasting as a form of penitence and purification annually on the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur. On this day neither food nor drink is permitted.
Early Christians associated fasting with penitence and purification. During the first two centuries of its existence, the Christian church established fasting as a voluntary preparation for receiving the sacraments of Holy Communion and baptism and for the ordination of priests. Later, these fasts were made obligatory, as others days were subsequently added. In the 6th century, the Lenten fast was expanded to 40 days, on each of which only one meal was permitted. After the Reformation, fasting was retained by most Protestant churches and was made optional in some cases. Stricter Protestants, however, condemned not only the festivals of the church, but its traditional fasts as well.
In the Roman Catholic Church, fasting may involve partial abstinence from food and drink or total abstinence. The Roman Catholic days of fasting are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. In the United States, fasting is observed mostly by Episcopalians and Lutherans among Protestants, by Orthodox and Conservative Jews, and by Roman Catholics.
Fasting took another form in the West: the hunger strike, a form of fasting, which in modern times has become a political weapon after being popularized by Mohandas Gandhi, leader of the struggle for India’s freedom, who undertook fasts to compel his followers to obey his precept of nonviolence.
Islam is the only religion that has retained the outward and spiritual dimensions of fasting throughout centuries. Selfish motives and desires of the base self alienate a man from his Creator. The most unruly human emotions are pride, avarice, gluttony, lust, envy, and anger. These emotions by their nature are not easy to control, thus a person must strive hard to discipline them. Muslims fast to purify their soul, it puts a bridle on the most uncontrolled, savage human emotions. People have gone to two extremes with regard to them. Some let these emotions steer their life which lead to barbarism among the ancients, and crass materialism of consumer cultures in modern times. Others tried to deprive themselves completely of these human traits, which in turn led to monasticism.
The fourth Pillar of Islam, the Fast of Ramadan, occurs once each year during the 9th lunar month, the month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar in which:
“…the Quran was sent down as a guidance for the people.” (Quran 2:185)
God in His infinite mercy has exempt the ill, travelers, and others who are unable from fasting Ramadan.
Fasting helps Muslims develop self-control, gain a better understanding of God’s gifts and greater compassion towards the deprived. Fasting in Islam involves abstaining from all bodily pleasures between dawn and sunset. Not only is food forbidden, but also any sexual activity. All things which are regarded as prohibited is even more so in this month, due to its sacredness.. Each and every moment during the fast, a person suppresses their passions and desires in loving obedience to God. This consciousness of duty and the spirit of patience helps in strengthening our faith. Fasting helps a person gain self-control. A person who abstains from permissible things like food and drink is likely to feel conscious of his sins. A heightened sense of spirituality helps break the habits of lying, staring with lust at the opposite sex, gossiping, and wasting time. Staying hungry and thirsty for just a day’s portion makes one feel the misery of the 800 million who go hungry or the one in ten households in the US, for example, that are living with hunger or are at risk of hunger. After all, why would anyone care about starvation if one has never felt its pangs oneself? One can see why Ramadan is also a month of charity and giving.
At dusk, the fast is broken with a light meal popularly referred to as iftaar. Families and friends share a special late evening meal together, often including special foods and sweets served only at this time of the year. Many go to the mosque for the evening prayer, followed by special pra yers recited only during Ramadan. Some will recite the entire Quran as a special act of piety, and public recitations of the Quran can be heard throughout the evening. Families rise before dawn to take their first meal of the day, which sustains them until sunset. Near the end of Ramadan Muslims commemorate the “Night of Power” when the Quran was revealed. The month of Ramadan ends with one of the two major Islamic celebrations, the Feast of the Breaking of the Fast, called Eid al-Fitr. On this day, Muslims joyfully celebrate the completion of Ramadan and customarily distribute gifts to children. Muslims are also obliged to help the poor join in the spirit of relaxation and enjoyment by distributing zakat-ul-fitr, a special and obligatory act of charity in the form of staple foodstuff, in order that all may enjoy the general euphoria of the day.
The Fifth Pillar of Islam: The Pilgrimage (Hajj)
The Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) is the fifth of the fundamental Muslim practices and institutions known as the five pillars of Islam. Pilgrimage is not undertaken in Islam to the shrines of saints, to monasteries for help from holy men, or to sights where miracles are supposed to have occurred, even though we may see many Muslims do this. Pilgrimage is made to the Kaaba, found in the sacred city of Mecca in Saudia, the ‘House of God,’ whose sanctity rests in that the Prophet Abraham built it for the worship of God. God rewarded him by attributing the House to himself, in essence honoring it, and by making it the devotional epicenter which all Muslims face when offering the prayers (salah). The rites of pilgrimage are performed today exactly as did by Abraham, and after him by Prophet Muhammad, may God praise them.
Pilgrimage is viewed as a particularly meritorious activity. Pilgrimage serves as a penance - the ultimate forgiveness for sins, devotion, and intense spirituality. The pilgrimage to Mecca, the most sacred city in Islam, is required of all physically and financially able Muslims once in their life. The pilgrimage rite begins a few months after Ramadan, on the 8th day of the last month of the Islamic year of Dhul-Hijjah, and ends on the 13th day. Mecca is the center towards which the Muslims converge once a year, meet and refresh in themselves the faith that all Muslims are equal and deserve the love and sympathy of others, irrespective of their race or ethnic origin. The racial harmony fostered by Hajj is perhaps best captured by Malcolm X on his historic pilgrimage:
‘Every one of the thousands at the airport, about to leave for Jeddah, was dressed this way. You could be a king or a peasant and no one would know. Some powerful personages, who were discreetly pointed out to me, had on the same thing I had on. Once thus dressed, we all had begun intermittently calling out “Labbayka! (Allahumma) Labbayka!” (At your service, O Lord!) Packed in the plane were white, black, brown, red, and yellow people, blue eyes and blond hair, and my kinky red hair - all together, brothers! All honoring the same God, all in turn giving equal honor to each other . . .
That is when I first began to reappraise the ‘white man’. It was when I first began to perceive that ‘white man’, as commonly used, means complexion only secondarily; primarily it described attitudes and actions. In America, ‘white man’ meant specific attitudes and actions toward the black man, and toward all other non-white men. But in the Muslim world, I had seen that men with white complexions were more genuinely brotherly than anyone else had ever been. That morning was the start of a radical alteration in my whole outlook about ‘white’ men.
There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blonds to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and the non-white... America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. Throughout my travels in the Muslim world, I have met, talked to, and even eaten with people who in America would have been considered white - but the ‘white’ attitude was removed from their minds by the religion of Islam. I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all colors together, irrespective of their color.”
Thus the pilgrimage unites the Muslims of the world into one international fraternity. More than two million persons perform the Hajj each year, and the rite serves as a unifying force in Islam by bringing followers of diverse backgrounds together in worship. In some Muslim societies, once a believer has made the pilgrimage, he is often labeled with the title ‘hajji’ ; this, however, is a cultural, rather than religious custom. Finally, the Hajj is a manifestation of the belief in the unity of God - all the pilgrims worship and obey the commands of the One God.
At certain stations on the caravan routes to Mecca, or when the pilgrim passes the point nearest to those stations, the pilgrim enters the state of purity known as ihram. In this state, the certain ‘normal’ actions of the day and night become impermissible for the pilgrims, such as covering the head, clipping the fingernails, and wearing normal clothing in regards to men. Males remove their clothing and don the garments specific to this state of ihram, two white seamless sheets that are wrapped around the body. All this increases the reverence and sanctity of the pilgrimage, the city of Mecca, and month of Dhul-Hijjah. There are 5 stations, one on the coastal plains northwest of Mecca towards Egypt and one south towards Yemen, while three lie north or eastwards towards Medina, Iraq and al-Najd. The simple garb signifies the equality of all humanity in God’s sight, and the removal of all worldly affections. After entering the state of ihram, the pilgrim proceeds to Mecca and awaits the start of the Hajj. On the 7th of Dhu al-Hijjah the pilgrim is reminded of his duties, and at the commence of the ritual, which takes place between the 8th and the 12th days of the month, the pilgrim visits the holy places outside Mecca - Arafah, Muzdalifah, and Minaa - and sacrifices an animal in commemoration of Abraham’s sacrifice. The pilgrim then shortens or shaves their head, and, after throwing seven stones at specific pillars at Minaa on three or four successive days, and heads for the central mosque where he walks seven times around the sacred sanctuary, or Kaaba, in the Great Mosque, and ambulates, walking and running, seven times between the two small hills of Mt. Safaa and Mt. Marwah. Discussing the historical or spiritual significance of each rite is beyond the scope of this introductory article.
Apart from Hajj, the “minor pilgrimage” or umrah is undertaken by Muslims during the rest of the year. Performing the umrah does not fulfill the obligation of Hajj. It is similar to the major and obligatory Islamic pilgrimage (hajj), and pilgrims have the choice of performing the umrah separately or in combination with the Hajj. As in the Hajj, the pilgrim begins the umrah by assuming the state of ihram. They enter Mecca and circle the sacred shrine of the Kaaba seven times. He may then touch the Black Stone, if he can, pray behind the Maqam Ibrahim, drink the holy water of the Zamzam spring. The ambulation between the hills of Safa and Marwah seven times and the shortening or shaving of the head complete the umrah.
Parts of This Article
Can Christianity Answer the Question?
In Christianity, the meaning of life is rooted in faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, in finding Jesus as Savior. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” However, the proposition is not without serious problems. First, if this is the purpose of creation and the precondition for eternal life, why was it not taught by the prophets to all the nations of the world? Second, had God turned into man close to the time of Adam all mankind would have had an equal chance to eternal life, unless those before the time of Jesus had another purpose for their existence! Third, how can people today who have not heard of Jesus fulfill the Christian purpose of creation? Naturally, such a purpose is too narrow and goes against divine justice.
Islam is the response to humanity’s search for meaning. The purpose of creation for all men and women for all times has been one: to know and worship God.
The Quran teaches us that every human being is born conscious of God,
“(Remember) when your Lord extracted from the loins of Adam’s children their descendants and made them testify [saying]: ‘Am I not your Lord?’ They said: ‘Yes, we testify to it.’ (This was) in case you say on the Day of Judgment: ‘We were unaware of this.’ Or you say: ‘It was our ancestors who worshipped others besides God and we are only their descendants. Will you then destroy us for what those liars did?’”(Quran 7:172-173)
The Prophet of Islam teaches us that God created this primordial need in human nature at the time Adam was made. God took a covenant from Adam when He created him. God extracted all of Adam’s descendants who were yet to be born, generation after generation, spread them out, and took a covenant from them. He addressed their souls directly, making them bear witness that He was their Lord. Since God made all human beings swear to His Lordship when He created Adam, this oath is imprinted on the human soul even before it enters the fetus, and so a child is born with a natural belief in the Oneness of God. This natural belief is called fitra in Arabic. Consequently, every person carries the seed of belief in the Oneness of God that lies deeply buried under layers of negligence and dampened by social conditioning. If the child were left alone, it would grow up conscious of God - a single Creator - but all children are affected by their environment. The Prophet of God said,
“Each child is born in a state of ‘fitra’, but his parents make him a Jew or a Christian. It is like the way an animal gives birth to a normal offspring. Have you noticed any young born mutilated before you mutilate them?”
Figure 1 The marvel of life. An unborn fetus sucking its thumb.
So, just as the child’s body submits to physical laws, set by God in nature, its soul submits naturally to the fact that God is its Lord and Creator. However, its parents condition it to follow their own way, and the child is not mentally capable of resisting it. The religion which the child follows at this stage is one of custom and upbringing, and God does not hold it to account for this religion. When a child matures into an adult, he or she must now follow the religion of knowledge and reason. As adults, people must now struggle between their natural disposition towards God and their desires in order to find the correct path. The call of Islam is directed to this primordial nature, the natural disposition, the imprint of God on the soul, the fitra, which caused the souls of every living being to agree that He Who made them was their Lord, even before the heavens and earth were created,
“I did not create the jinn and mankind except for My worship.” (Quran 51:56)
According to Islam, there has been a basic message which God has revealed through all prophets, from the time of Adam to the last of the prophets, Muhammad, may God praise them all. All the prophets sent by God came with the same essential message:
“Indeed, We have sent a messenger to every nation (saying), ‘Worship God and avoid false gods...’” (Quran 16:36)
The prophets brought the same answer to mankind’s most troubling question, an answer that addresses the yearning of the soul for God.
What is Worship?
‘Islam’ means ‘submission’, and worship, in Islam, means ‘obedient submission to the will of God.’
Every created being ‘submits’ to the Creator by following the physical laws created by God,
“To Him belongs whosoever is in the heavens and the earth; all obey His will.” (Quran 30:26)
They, however, are neither rewarded nor punished for their ‘submission’, for it involves no will. Reward and punishment are for those who worship God, who submit to the moral and religious Law of God of their own free will. This worship is the essence of the message of all the prophets sent by God to mankind. For example, this understanding of worship was emphatically expressed by Jesus Christ,
“None of those who call me ‘Lord’ will enter the kingdom of God, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”
‘Will’ means ‘what God wants human beings to do.’ This ‘Will of God’ is contained in the divinely revealed laws which the prophets taught their followers. Consequently, obedience to divine law is the foundation of worship. Only when human beings worship their God by submitting to His religious law can they have peace and harmony in their lives and the hope for heaven, just like the universe runs in harmony by submitting to the physical laws set by its Lord. When you remove the hope of heaven, you remove the ultimate value and purpose of life. Otherwise, what difference would it really make whether we live a life of virtue or vice? Everyone’s fate would be the same anyway.
For thousands of years, astronomers wrestled with basic questions concerning the universe. Until the early 1920’s, it was believed that the universe had always been in existence; also, that the size of the universe was fixed and not changing. However, in 1912, the American astronomer, Vesto Slipher, made a discovery that would soon change astronomers’ beliefs about the universe. Slipher, noticed that the galaxies were moving away from earth at huge velocities. These observations provided the first evidence supporting the expanding-universe theory.
Before the invention of the telescope in 1608, man could do little more than wonder about the origin of the universe. (Courtesy: NASA)
In 1916, Albert Einstein formulated his General Theory of Relativity that indicated that the universe must be either expanding or contracting. Confirmation of the expanding-universe theory finally came in 1929 in the hands of the well known American astronomer Edwin Hubble.
By observing redshifts in the light wavelengths emitted by galaxies, Hubble found that galaxies were not fixed in their position; instead, they were actually moving away from us with speeds proportional to their distance from earth (Hubble's Law). The only explanation for this observation was that the universe had to be expanding. Hubble’s discovery is regarded as one of the greatest in the history of astronomy. In 1929, he published the velocity-time relation which is the basis of modern cosmology. In the years to come, with further observations, the expanding-universe theory was accepted by scientists and astronomers alike.
See Explanation. Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.See Explanation. Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.
With the Hooker Telescope, Hubble discovered that the galaxies were moving away us. Above are photos of known galaxies. (Courtesy: NASA)
Yet, astonishingly well before telescopes were even invented and well before Hubble published his Law, Prophet Muhammad used to recite a verse of the Quran to his companions that ultimately stated that the universe is expanding.
“And the heaven We created with might, and indeed We are (its) expander.” (Quran 51:47)
At the time of the revelation of the Quran, the word “space” was not known, and people used the word “heaven” to refer to what lies above the Earth. In the above verse, the word “heaven” is referring to space and the known universe. The verse points out that space, and thus the universe, happens to be expanding, just as Hubble’s Law states.
That the Quran mentioned such a fact centuries before the invention of the first telescope, at a time when there was primitive knowledge in science, is considered remarkable. This is more so considering that, like many people in his time, Prophet Muhammad happened to be illiterate and simply could not have been aware of such facts by himself. Could it be that he had truly received divine revelation from the Creator and Originator of the universe?
The Big Bang Theory
Soon after Hubble published his theory, he went on to discover that not only were galaxies moving away from the Earth, but were also moving away from one another. This meant that the universe happened to be expanding in every direction, in the same way a balloon expands when filled with air. Hubble’s new findings placed the foundations for the Big Bang theory.
The Big Bang theory states that around 12-15 billion years ago the universe came into existence from one single extremely hot and dense point, and that something triggered the explosion of this point that brought about the beginning of the universe. The universe, since then, has been expanding from this single point.
Later, in 1965, radio astronomers Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson made a Noble Prize winning discovery that confirmed the Bing Bang theory. Prior to their discovery, the theory implied that if the single point from which the universe came into existence was initially extremely hot, then remnants of this heat should be found. This remnant heat is exactly what Penzias and Wilson found. In 1965, Penzias and Wilson discovered a 2.725 degree Kelvin Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMB) that spreads through the universe. Thus, it was understood that the radiation found was a remnant of the initial stages of the Big Bang. Presently, the Big Bang theory is accepted by the vast majority of scientists and astronomers.
Cosmic Background Explorer Data
A microwave map of the leftover from the Big Bang that gave birth to the universe. (Courtesy: NASA)
It is mentioned in the Quran:
“He (God) is the Originator of the heavens and the earth…” (Quran 6:101)
“Is not He who created the heavens and the earth Able to create the likes of them? Yes; and He is the Knowing Creator. His command is only when He intends a thing that He says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is.” (Quran 36:81-82)
The above verses prove that the universe had a beginning, that God was behind its creation, and all that God needs to do inorder to create is to say “Be,” and it is. Could this be an explanation as to what triggered off the explosion that brought about the beginning of the universe?
The Quran also mentions:
“Have those who disbelieved not considered that the heavens and the earth were a joined entity, then We separated them, and made from water every living thing? Then will they not believe?” (Quran 21:30)
Muslim scholars who have explained the previous verse mention that the heavens and earth were once one, and then God caused them to separate and form into the seven heavens and Earth. Yet, due to the limitations of science and technology at the time of the revelation of the Quran (and for centuries to follow), no scholar was able to give much detail about how exactly the heavens and earth were created. What the scholars could explain was the precise meaning of each word in Arabic in the verse, as well as the overall meaning of the verse.
In the previous verse, the Arabic words ratq and fataq are used. The word ratq can be translated into “entity” “sewn to” “joined together” or “closed up”. The meaning of these translations all circulate around something that is mixed and that has a separate and distinct existence. The verb fataq is translated into “We unstitched” “We clove them asunder” “We separated” or “We have opened them”. These meanings imply that something comes into being by an action of splitting or tearing apart. The sprouting of a seed from the soil is a good example of a similar illustration of the meaning of the verb fataq.
With the introduction of the Big Bang theory, it soon became clear to Muslim scholars that the details mentioned with regards to the theory go identically hand in hand with the description of the creation of the universe in verse 30 of chapter 21 of the Quran. The theory states that all the matter in the universe came into existence from one single extremely hot and dense point; that exploded and brought about the beginning of the universe, matches what is mentioned in the verse that the heaven and Earth (thus the universe) where once joined together, and then split apart. Once again, the only possible explanation is that Prophet Muhammad had truly received divine revelation from God, The Creator and Originator of the universe.
The Bible is the sacred scripture of Judaism and Christianity. The Christian Bible consists of the Old Testament and the New Testament, with the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox versions of the Old Testament being slightly larger because of their acceptance of certain books not accepted as scripture by Protestants. The Jewish Bible includes only the books known to Christians as the Old Testament. Furthermore, the arrangements of the Jewish and Christian canons differ considerably. Prophet Muhammad has been prophesized in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Jesus and the Apostles are believed to have spoken Aramaic. Aramaic continued in wide use until about AD 650, when it was supplanted by Arabic. The present day Bible is not, however, based on the Aramaic manuscripts, but on Greek and Latin versions.
Quoting the Bible prophecies does not entail that Muslims accept the present day Bible in its entirety as God’s revelation. For the Islamic belief on previous scriptures, please click here.
It is not a pre-condition of acceptance that a prophet be foretold by an earlier prophet. Moses was a prophet to Pharaoh even though he was not prophesized by anyone before him. Abraham was God’s prophet to Nimrod, yet no one prophesized his coming. Noah, Lot, and others were true prophets of God, yet they were not foretold. The evidence of a prophet’s truth is not limited to old prophecies, but it includes the actual message brought by him, miracles and more.
Discussing prophecies is a delicate matter. It requires sifting through Bible versions and translations, recently discovered manuscripts and searching out Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic words and investigating them. The task becomes especially difficult when: “prior to the printing press (15th century), all copies of Bibles show textual variations.” This is not an easy subject for lay people. For this reason, the best testimony comes from ancient and modern experts in the area who acknowledged the prophecies.
We have records of early Jews and Christians, both monks and rabbis, who witnessed that Muhammad was the fulfillment of specific Bible prophecies. The following are some examples of these people.
The Awaited Prophet
Pre-Islam Jews and Christians of Arabia were awaiting a prophet. Before the appearance of Muhammad, Arabia was home to Jews, Christians, and pagan Arabs who, on occasion, went to war with each other. The Jews and Christians would say: “The time has come for the unlettered prophet to appear who will revive the religion of Abraham. We will join his ranks and wage fierce war against you.” When Muhammad actually appeared, some of them believed in him, and some refused. This is why God revealed:
“And when there came to them a Book [Quran] from God confirming that which was with them – although before they used to pray for victory against those who disbelieved – but [then] when there came to them that which they recognized, they disbelieved in it; so the curse of God will be upon the disbelievers.” (Quran 2:89)
The first witness was Buhaira, the Christian monk, who recognized Muhammad’s prophethood when he was still young and told his uncle:
“…a great fortune lies before your nephew, so take him home quickly.”
The second witness was Waraqah bin Nawfal, a Christian scholar who died soon after a solitary meeting with Muhammad. Waraqah attested Muhammad was the Prophet of his time and received revelation exactly like Moses and Jesus.
The Jews of Medina were anxiously awaiting the arrival of a prophet. The third and fourth witnesses were their two famous Jewish rabbis, Abdullah bin Salam and Mukhayriq.
The sixth and seventh witnesses were also Yemeni Jewish rabbis, Wahb ibn Munabbih, and Ka’b al-Ahbar (d. 656 CE). Ka’b found long passages of praise and the description of the Prophet prophesized by Moses in the Bible.
The Quran states:
“Is it not a sign to them that the learned men of the Children of Israel knew it (as true)?” (Quran 26:197)